Academic institutions are all at different stages of their journey of integrating responsible management education. In Sweden, Jonkoping International Business School, a new PRME signatory, has just recently begun what they call “the beginning of a long journey” to educate students who can generate sustainable value for businesses and society.
I spoke with Marcela Ramirez-Pasillas, Assistant Professor and PRME Project Manager at Jonkoping International Business School (JIBS) about their first steps in embedding these topics into their institution’s culture.
Introduce JIBS’ approach to sustainability and responsible management.
During 2012-2013, JIBS renewed its strategy and guiding principles to find a way to support an inclusive and sustainable global economy. JIBS added the guiding principle “Responsible in Action” to the two already existing principles (“International at Heart” and “Entrepreneurial in Mind”). Our new principle recognised responsibility as part of JIBS’ “DNA.”
Recognising that JIBS needed to be more explicit in our social responsibility activities, our Dean, Johan Ross, introduced PRME to JIBS. In March 2013, our management team decided for JIBS to join PRME. As a result, JIBS focused on embracing the principle “Responsible in Action” in a more systematic manner across our Business School. “Responsible in Action” pertains to JIBS people—students, faculty, and staff—but also to our processes, activities and educational curricula. Our sincere commitment to a more focused and transparent approach to responsibility was demonstrated by appointing a faculty member, myself, to be our PRME project manager in 2013. Twenty percent of my time is allocated to coordinating the PRME effort moving forward.
How are you working to embed this into the culture of the school?
For the past couple of years we have focused on raising awareness of PRME and sustainability topics among JIBS faculty and students. We have done this in part by putting in place a number of arenas where students and staff can discuss these topics and take action to help move the school forward with its new mission. The Brown Bag Faculty Lunch Seminar is an arena for faculty to exchange ideas and build a stronger foundation on ethics, responsibility and sustainability. In 2013, myself, together with one of our students, Anika Rosski, started the Responsible in Action Student Board (RE-ACT) as a way to promote sustainability and empower students to become change-makers. The board, with 15 students, defined as its vision “to be a role model amongst students and student organisations in stimulating actions and shaping the mind sets of future global leaders to contribute to a more responsible and sustainable society.” The new board transformed RE-ACT into a full fledge student club. The student club, together with other JIBS student associations like JU-Talk, have been key actors inspiring our student community to engage in making an impact in society. We also launched another key arena, the “Responsibility in Action Day” aimed at a wider audience to link students, faculty and practitioners. We organised a new sustainability network for faculty, staff and students in partnership with our sister schools at Jonkoping University including the School of Education, School of Engineering and the School of Health Science. But, as we said, we are just at the beginning!
What have been some of the challenges along your journey so far and how are you planning to or already dealing with them?
There are three main challenges in our journey with PRME. The first challenge is creating an understanding of PRME across the organisation. When an institution creates a position such as “The PRME Project Manager” as JIBS has done, this sends a strong signal across the organisation. However this signal can be misinterpreted and we do not want students, staff and faculty thinking that PRME is limited to the job of one person, but more importantly the task of every individual on campus. Since “Responsible in Action” is a JIBS guiding principle, PRME pertains to all JIBS people, processes and activities.
The second challenge is my work as PRME Project Manager. I need to continuously find ways to build credibility around PRME and collaborate with institutional intrapreneurs working with sustainability. JIBS has several institutional intrapreneurs working with sustainability. They provide JIBS with unique resources. For instance PhD candidates Duncan Levinsohn defends his dissertation on social entrepreneurship; PhD candidate Matthias Waldkirch works with responsible leadership; PhD candidate Veronika Pereseina specialises in sustainability in the supply chain; and PhD candidate Khizran Zehra, studies informal and formal entrepreneurs in Pakistan. Additionally, it is important for me to embrace the responsible student leadership of the students, including former student Anika Rosski, and current students like Nickie Exellie and Tetiana Grytsaieva. Organising joint activities with Gabriel Bake, JIBS Doctoral Student Coordinator and Board member of the Swedish United Nations Association, will be an enormous opportunity for JIBS. Thus, it was and is important for me to identify leaders and intrapreneurs, support their ideas and/or build new joint projects.
The third challenge is the limited resources available to work with on these topics. We are a small business school with around 1700 students and 132 collaborators. Thus, we continuously need to find creative ways to stimulate social change out of nothing.
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
If you want to become a Business Schools that engages in and works to build a sustainable society, do not hesitate. Start today! A few pieces of advice for moving forward:
- Resource scarcity is not a limitation, it is an opportunity to become better in what you do
- Find those institutional intrapreneurs at your Business School that are already committed to responsible leadership and sustainability. Embrace their work!
- If you want to make a difference, people at your school are the best resource
- Your students will be inspired when you take a stance. They will become an important resource to make an impact in the student community
What is next for JIBS?
We believe that everything the school does has direct and indirect societal implications and that it must better balance our actions to develop local and global social responsibility and sustainability. Our challenge moving forward is to continually incorporate these topics into our activities, processes, education curricula and research, and thereby contribute to develop responsible leaders. We are looking to establish collaborations with relevant partners to stimulate knowledge exchange on practices and to develop our research in this area. We are just starting with our journey, but looking forward to moving this project forward.
For more information on Jonkoping International Business Schools approach to responsible management education click here to read their first SIP report.